Mt. View board considers tighter security

BY TOM FONTANA

Correspondent

At recent Mountain View school board meetings, site manager Robert Taylor has been asked to look into improving security at the district’s schools.

In particular, they wanted him to research costs of fire alarm, door security, and camera systems.

At Monday’s board meeting, Taylor shared that he had asked three different vendors about ballpark data so he could advise the board, with the lowest being $26,500.

“But that’s just for compiling specifications for the security systems,” he told the board, “not for the actual cost and installation of the systems.”

Considering the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut where 28 individuals were killed by gunfire including 20 elementary students, a lively discussion about school security followed Taylor’s comments.

A concern was expressed by one of the visitors that the side door at the elementary school that leads to district offices and the gym is frequently left propped open.

“I am aware of that problem,” Superintendent Francine Shea said.  “I believe it’s left open by the food service truck driver when there is a delivery to the cafeteria.  It has concerned me as well, and I’m addressing that.”

When the discussion with Taylor turned to acquiring new equipment to improve snow removal around the school, director Sondra Stine commented, “I’d like to see the doors fixed around our schools before we spend money on snow removal equipment.”

That prompted several visitors and directors to start speaking all at once concerning school security, especially problems with doors left ajar.

“That happens a lot in this district,” one person stated.

Another explained, “They don’t close because somebody sticks a rock in to keep it open, or stones just get in there and keep them from closing.”

“Yes, doors don’t always close,” someone else claimed.  “Especially the main doors!”

“Then they should be swept out – the stones – several times a day,” someone suggested.

With several in the room speaking at the same time, one director stated, “This is getting out of hand.”

“But it’s important,” board member Christine Plonski-Sezer replied.  “It’s about the security of the kids.”

She added that at one school where she worked, if someone broke into the building, a gate would automatically come down, blocking that person from entering the classroom areas of the building.

High school principal Robert Presley pointed out that many classroom doors do not lock from the inside.

“Teachers can’t lock their door with a key unless they open it and lock it from the outside,” he said.

Taylor replied that as door knobs are being replaced as needed, knobs with key locks on both sides are being installed.  He also announced that lights have been installed outside of the high school, illuminating the building at night.

Board president Todd Adams moved the meeting on to the next agenda item, with the indication there would be more action on security at future meetings.

In other business, Adams announced directors’ committee assignments for 2013.  They are: Finance – chair, Dava Rinehart-Cowan; members Thomas Stoddard, Roy Twining; Personnel – Stine; members Plonski-Sezer, Ellen Aherne; Policy – chair, Plonski-Sezer; members Elwood Williams, Stephen Kilmer; Education – chair Aherne; members Stine, Plonski-Sezer; Building & Site – chair Twining; members Williams, Kilmer; Transportation – chair Williams; members Kilmer, Twining; Labor Relations – chair, Stoddard; members Aherne, Rinehart-Cowan, Stine, Plonski-Sezer (alternate); PSBA representative, Kilmer.

The board welcomed the new district business manager, Joseph Patchcoski, to his first meeting, and authorized him to sign checks for a number of accounts and funds, and also approved a benefits package for him.

The meeting opened with the second presentation of Pride in Mountain View awards, recognizing high school groups, including the boys and girls soccer teams, district and county band and chorus participants, and the drama club.  Teacher Penny Bills was credited for five years of service.

High school principal Presley presented the board with two large photograph banners of the boys and girls varsity soccer teams.